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Dominance fails to pay off as Abbey slip into relegation zone
Published 03/02/14

ABBEY had a frustrating afternoon at Milton Keynes on Saturday where they lost a game they were capable of winning, despite dominating the forward battle and the set pieces.

The result leaves them in the relegation zone in Southern Counties North, two points adrift of fourth from bottom Wallingford.

It took Milton Keynes less than two minutes to prise open the Abbey defence, number eight Daniel Rolfe running in unopposed under the posts after a break from scrum half Rob Lasbrey. Skipper Phil Powell added the simple conversion.

After this, the game soon developed into a battle between Abbey’s stronger pack and the sharper home backs. Milton Keynes possessed two dangerous wings in Scott Aspinall and Dan Pearson and during the course of the first half both of them caused Abbey problems. Up front Abbey were always in control as the pack put constant pressure on the Milton Keynes scrum and the mauling and rucking was impressive.

Abbey applied pressure, driving back a home scrum and allowing number eight Mike Beckley to make ground before a clever cross kick from Dye almost found wing Steve Warwick inside the home 22. However, prop Ollie Charlton was yellow-carded after 25 minutes, but even in his absence Abbey continued to look the better side up front.

After successfully absorbing the pressure of a series of home tap penalties near their own line, they broke from defence and gained a psychological advantage by claiming the only points during the period when they were a man short.

Another patient and impressive build up of phases by the forwards resulted in Hallett being driven over the line, referee Jonathan Royals taking his time before awarding the score once he had a clear view of where the ball was. Dye’s conversion attempt was held up in the wind and there was no further score in the first half.

The wind momentarily dropped during the opening of the second half, but the first 10 minutes proved a quiet part of the game with neither side showing much initiative. The visitors took the lead for the only time in the 49th minute when Dye landed a penalty. Jake Mollett, who had previously featured as a temporary replacement when Charlton was carded, now came on permanently in the 50th minute as the Abbey scrum continued to dominate.

However, a soft try was conceded three minutes later when Powell was allowed to waltz through to the line after a line-out in the Abbey 22. His conversion attempt was seriously wide of the mark, the wind now having returned with a vengeance.

Tom Waterhouse made a return to league action as a replacement for Brown but the match began to slip away from Abbey.

The latter stages of the game belonged to Milton Keynes and they made the game safe with three minutes of normal time remaining when replacement threequarter Oliver Fountain crossed wide on the left with a noticeable absence of home defenders in the vicinity. Once more the wind made a mockery of Powell’s attempted conversion.

Now the weather took a serious turn for the worse. With black clouds making it increasingly difficult to follow play, the rain started and lightning flashed ominously.

As the wind gathered in strength, Rolfe ended the game as he had started it by scoring a try and giving Milton Keynes a bonus point which had looked unlikely 10 minutes earlier. Powell converted from wide on the left in a howling gale and driving rain just before the referee signalled full-time.

Abbey: J Brown (T Waterhouse, 50 mins), S Warwick, L Campbell-Taylor (J Brown, 82 mins), T Brain, C Gingell, J Dye, A Ross, O Charlton (J Mollett, 50 mins), M Toland, P Emery (O Charlton, 77 mins), J Knights, S Hallett, D Pawlett (J Mollett 30-37 mins, C Shaw, 84 mins), F Mutepfa, M Beckley.

Published 03/02/14

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